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About Me

My name's Enrico Bianco and I love web technology and open source software. In my spare time, I study Japanese language and culture and produce a podcast about learning Japanese.


My Last Week in Canada

(Miscellaneous)

So, if you follow news about social media or Canadian startups, or any number of major news outlets really, you’ve probably heard that PostRank was acquired by Google. Well, I’m along for that ride too and so very soon I will be moving to the Bay Area to work for Google in their Mountain View headquarters, the Googleplex.

I was down there these past two weeks for Noogler orientation — yes, they call new Googlers “Nooglers”. It was quite a rush; there are so many things to learn at once and two weeks isn’t nearly enough to get a grip on it all. It’s pretty much like this. And by most accounts, it will probably continue to be like that for the next couple of months. But it’s also incredibly exciting. As Ilya writes in the PostRank blog post, this is our chance to really push the boundaries of social media analytics and bring our groundbreaking work in the field to millions and millions of users. While I can say nothing of what we’re cooking up at the moment, I assure you (perhaps just as everybody else is) that it will be truly awesome. Read the rest of this entry »

Tanto Cuore: Deck-Building With Maids

(Miscellaneous)

Tanto Cuore: A Deck-Building Card Game

I recently pre-ordered the first English printing of Japanese deck-building game Tanto Cuore, which was slated to come out in May. Much to my surprise (and delight), it was actually released much sooner. To start from the conclusion (as the Japanese would say), it has proven to be an excellent addition to my collection so far. Read the rest of this entry »

Disney’s 50th Animated Feature

(Miscellaneous)

Tangled Promo Image

I’m a bit late to the party but I had a chance to see Disney’s 50th animated feature, Tangled. As you might expect, it’s 3D animation. Disney seems to be moving away from traditional animation though apparently cells (or at least a digital form of them) aren’t quite dead yet. Their forays into computer animation have usually been aided by Pixar, such as the Toy Story series, and it seems to have become trendy to point and laugh at Disney and how creatively bankrupt they’ve become.

Well, if Tangled is any indication, Disney hasn’t quite reached bottom. Perhaps it’s because it was their 50th animated feature, but Disney reached deep to bring back the magic of the classic 90′s flicks we all grew up with and loved. And you know what? I think they managed to do it with Tangled. Read the rest of this entry »

The Skinny on Usage-Based Billing

(Miscellaneous)

You may have heard much clamouring around the Canadian Internet about a recent CRTC decision to mandate usage-based billing. What does this mean?

Smaller ISPs buy network resources wholesale from the big players (Bell/Rogers/Shaw) to resell to us. This arrangement was put into place because, as I understand it, those resources were subsidized by our tax dollars and because the massive telecom companies needed some competition. Previously, a decision was made to allow the big ISPs to impose throttling (based on the type of traffic) on the resellers, which was met with a great deal of disapproval from consumers. The big telecoms seemingly backed off of this, or at least they don’t explicitly state that they practice it. As a Rogers customer I’ve seen no evidence of throttling of specific types of traffic on my cable internet connection. But that was apparently not enough. Read the rest of this entry »

Disgaea 3: Become Hell’s Number 1 Honour Student

(Video Games)

Disgaea is one of my favourite strategy RPGs of all time. The others are Valkyria Chronicles and Final Fantasy Tactics (the original game, not the rest of the series). The rest could pretty much vanish and I wouldn’t miss a single one. Sorry Fire Emblem fans, but I’ve tried two or three of those games and they never manage to keep me engaged for more than a couple of hours and certainly nowhere near long enough to get to the end.

Being able to play Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice is actually one of the main reasons I bought a PS3 and, to this point, I’ve invested about 30 hours of my life to it. At the rate I’m going, the game will probably claim another 20-30 before I get to the end of the main story, let alone the post-game side quests and power levelling. That’s considerably longer than the offline, single-player experience of most of the PS3′s top titles… combined.

The protagonist for this chronicle of the Netherworlds is Mao, the son of the Overlord (and Dean) of Evil Academy. Mao has been consuming everything imaginable about “Heroes”, humans who according to legends told in the Human World have gone toe to toe with Overlords and prevailed. He hopes that this research will eventually lead him to the power to kill his father. Why? Because Dad stepped on his “Slaystation Portable” and he lost 4 million hours worth of save data.

That’s just the beginning of Disgaea 3′s relentless mockery of stale Japanese RPG conventions. Even more than the first two games, Disgaea 3 is filled with irreverent humour, game and pop culture references… I even found a nod to a Japanese Internet video meme the other day. (Link goes to NicoNico Video, which is in Japanese and requires a login. Sorry but 4Kids had the original video taken down on YouTube). Most of all, Disgaea 3 is very much willing to poke fun at itself and its predecessors, with characters often breaking the fourth wall to get a chuckle out of the fans. Read the rest of this entry »

At the End of a Month of Writing

(Miscellaneous)

So, this is the last day of November and that also means the end of my commitment to spend a couple of hours each day on writing (mostly for my blog but also for other things). I’ve already written about the lessons I’ve learned about writing through this exercise but I’ve also achieved some things along the way that I think are worth recording.

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The Sinister Side of Used Games

(Miscellaneous)

I recently bought a PS3, as you can tell by the fact that I’ve written several posts about PS3 games. One thing that sucks about owning a new console is not having any games for it. The PS3 has been around for a couple of years now, so many of the games that I wanted to own for the system are difficult to find new. This led me to buying a used copy of Valkyria Chronicles at a local EB Games and I was up-sold on the discount card (it practically paid for itself through the discount on the used game I was buying).

Every so often I’ll pass by an EB Games or GameStop just to see what’s there, to see if they’ve got something that I really badly want to add to my collection. It is through this small ritual of mine that I’ve realized that the business of used games at these stores is truly sinister.

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Of moustaches and cancer

(Miscellaneous)

Me (left) and Dad (right), proudly wearing our mo's

On this day three years ago, not long after I’d started to settle into my cozy place in Mississauga, I received an urgent call from my mother. My father, who had long been fighting against esophageal cancer, had passed away. There is nothing, nothing in the world that prepares you for a moment like that. Even if you know that your loved ones have fought long and hard but that their strength won’t hold out and it is only a matter of time. Even if you know that all treatment options have been tried and have failed, and all that’s left is to care for and love them in their final days. Nothing prepares you to finally be cut away from them for good. The scar that leaves on your heart can take weeks, months, even years to heal.

That picture up there? That’s me on the left and Dad on the right, both wearing our moustaches proudly. He started growing his when he was 17 and he never stopped wearing it until chemotherapy tore it away from him. In a way it was his trademark. In the span of a month I could not possibly grow a moustache that epic. But dammit I’ve tried. I participated in Movember, so for this entire month I’ve been growing a moustache (and only a moustache) to raise awareness of and funds for research into prostate cancer, which according to many sources affects 1 in 6 men.

When you fight for a cause, it helps to remind yourself of what you’re fighting for. Yes, prostate cancer is not esophageal cancer, but let’s not split hairs here: I lost my old man to cancer and I wouldn’t wish the sadness, anger, frustration, and despair that moment filled me with on my worst enemy. And so, on the third anniversary of his passing and close to the end of the month of November, I implore you to please donate generously to my Mo Space and to those of all of the friends and family around you who are participating. We have come so far in understanding and developing advanced treatments for many cancers but even so we still have far to go.

Until we get to that point, I will don this moustache on this month every year, both for Movember and to keep my father in my heart, whose moustache was a symbol of his vitality, manliness, and prestige.

Spirited to Distant Worlds

(Miscellaneous)

Tonight I went to see “Distant Worlds: music from Final Fantasy” in Toronto. It was an incredibly powerful and moving experience for reasons that go well beyond the music and performance itself. Final Fantasy and its music hold a very important place in my heart and have a great deal of sentimental value to me.

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JRPGs: The Diminishing Genre

(Video Games)

I was having a conversation with a co-worker today about how it seems that dominance in video game development has shifted from Japan to the West. This is not a particularly new idea. But it does leave me with a somewhat unsatisfied appetite for one of my favourite genres which is very well-represented in the PS2′s library: Japanese RPGs.

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